This is part one of a three-part series that is based on my forthcoming book The Lost Discipline of Conversation, to be released by Zondervan in 2018.You can read the first installment of this blog series here.
Symptoms of unattended souls are wide and many. Diagnosis is not difficult. Pridefulness and self-centeredness. Bitterness. Loneliness. The tendency to doubt. The tendency to compare. Regrets. Depression. Envy. Anger. Fear. Hopelessness. Guilt. Insecurity. Feeling unlovable. Being short-tempered with the people I love most. Being short-tempered. Experiencing waves of unworthiness. Feeling fake and empty. Being motivated by peer approval, controlling, defensive. Engage in only small talk. Feeling inadequate. Mask-wearing. Holding grudges more and longer. Wasting hours on the computer or in front of the T.V. Intolerance. Unforgiveness. Apathy.
So how is your soul?
To even mention the word “soul” elicits questions. What is the soul? What does the soul need? In sum, every human being is a soul. It is the whole of who we are, body and spirit, and we are created by God to connect with Him and others. Because God created and designed us as souls, our needs will align with who God is, the Triune community in which He exists, and a healthy Christian community. The human soul thrives on and is nurtured in relationship with God and others. Christians depend on God, His Spirit, His Word, and others for spiritual sustenance, our identity in Christ, and for the very formation of our faith. The decline in attending to the health of souls is becoming evident in the lack of vibrant life and relationships both inside and outside the church.
The small group movement has sought to address this problem. Small groups undertook serious efforts to contend with the effects of fragmentation and anonymity in society. No matter the degree of “rugged individualism” or self-determination one adopts, the individualist may eventually find herself or himself in some sort of small group in order to address the issues and challenges of life. Yet as Christians we often overemphasize actions and fail to attend to one another as souls. Many have had “accountability partners.” These consist of relationships where friends keep each other in check, making sure the other is doing well and avoiding temptation. This approach alone causes people to scrutinize each other’s actions, without addressing the heart-seeded drive behind these behaviors. It is important for Christians to be accountable to each other, however, this approach misses a critical component because we can be our own best actors. What must complement accountability is attentiveness, being attentive to one another’s hearts and souls, in relationships that seek to listen, understand, and represent Christ.
Transformation is a process that requires the individual’s cooperation and effort, but it is also intended to be accomplished in community with God and others. Spiritual authenticity is the goal but the context wherein transformation best takes place is critical. The precursor for spiritually authenticity is spiritual receptivity and depth. The kind of community that satisfies the soul is impossible without a revealing relationship with Christ, where he reveals more of himself and we are enabled to reveal more of ourselves.
This is part two of a three-part series. In Part 3 of this blog post, I’ll discuss the longings of our soul and how to meet some of those longings.